Monday, January 30, 2012

My "Strength"...Isn't Exactly An Organized Office

A quick hello to you all and a heads up that I'm in two places at once tonight/tomorrow! It's my blog day on the Girlfriends Book Club, and I'm writing about something I've been pondering for a while...embracing not only our weaknesses but, also, our strengths.

Also, I'm a guest at Reader's Entertainment where my messy office space is being highlighted in their "At the Desk" feature. It was fun to share a bunch of pictures of my work area and be reminded that writing is, indeed, an exercise in chaos!! (At least at my house. ;)

For those of you who are writers, what is your workspace like?? Where do you do your best writing? Do you edit in the same location as you do your drafting, or do you have a different spot for each? For everyone, what's your favorite place at home to read?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Got My First Real Six-String...

...bought it in my college dorm, played it 'til my fingertips turned purple, it was the winter of '88. (Yeah, I know Bryan Adams had better lyrics and, also, his rhymed, but my version of the song would've had to start out differently. You just never forget your first guitar, do you? Or, um, your first really steamy summer...LOL. ;) My ever-wonderful brother took me to see Bryan in concert at the Chicago Theater last night, and it was a fantastic performance. The "Bare Bones" tour featured only Bryan on guitar/harmonica, alongside a piano player named Gary (Breit?), who was also an outstanding musician. Considering it was just the two of them performing acoustically, the sound quality was amazing, and Bryan's powerful and distinctive voice filled the theater. I knew and loved so many of the songs he sang. Really. It was like I got to relive the nostalgic '80s and half of the '90s in two music-packed hours. "Run to You," "This Time," "It's Only Love," "Here I Am," "Cuts Like a Knife," "Somebody," "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman," "Straight from the Heart," "Coming Back to You," "Heaven" and "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" were some of the popular selections -- as well as "Summer of '69," which I couldn't wait to hear again. 

The show was actually rescheduled from early October, when Bryan had to cancel because of illness. Instead of a sunny autumn Saturday, we had to go downtown on a freezing January Tuesday night, on a day when it had been raining/snowing/hailing (in various combinations) all morning. So, when I say this concert was worth the wait and the added travel challenges, you have to know it was a great show! 

Do you have a favorite or most memorable Bryan Adams song?!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mr. Forever...and the Quest for the Perfect Scone Recipe!

Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming my long-time friend and Chicago-North chaptermate, Sara Daniel, to Brant Flakes! Her new novel, Mr. Forever, was just release from Musa Publishing a few weeks ago. It's already garnered some great reviews, including one that gave the story 4 Hearts and called her heroine, Olivia, "fantastic ... feisty and fierce" -- congrats!

Mr. Forever is a contemporary romance in which the discovery of a secret baby threatens the hero's professional reputation. Falling for the woman who loves this baby would ruin him. Take a peek at the blurb:

Marriage therapist Caleb Paden has just found out he has a son from a one-night stand, making a mockery of his core belief of stable relationships — “friendship above all physical encounters.” On his way to take the child for a paternity test, a snowstorm leaves him stranded with single mom Olivia Wells, who blames his advice for breaking up her marriage. Caleb finds himself fighting the urge for the most basic of physical encounters. Olivia would like nothing more than to destroy the career he spent a lifetime building, but her maternal instincts draw her to help Caleb bond with his child. Soon, she finds herself falling for both of them. Nowhere in any of his advice does Caleb have an answer for how to make a relationship work if he loses his heart to love.

Ooooh, sounds good, doesn't it?! Sara is here to share with us her search for the kinds of amazing scones her heroine Olivia makes. Since she knows I'm a confirmed sweet tooth and lover of carbs, she came to the right place to be appreciated ;). Welcome, Sara!

Marilyn, thanks so much for hosting me today. I've noticed you like to talk about food. Usually when it comes to cooking and baking, I prefer to do the bare minimum to keep my family from starving. But ever since I started writing Mr. Forever where my heroine Olivia makes scones as the specialty of her inn, I've been obsessing about scones. I'm hoping you and your readers can help me in my quest for the perfect scone.

See, my heroine has been called a "scone sorceress" and "scone goddess." She's gotten instant marriage proposals because of her amazing scones. Did I mention she makes plain scones along with two flavors of the day every day? All of this was fabulous in my imaginary writing world until I wanted to connect with my inner goddess and make scones delicious enough that men would take a bite and instantly fall in love.

My journey started off on an inspiring note. The drive-thru man at my local coffee shop promised me his pumpkin spice scones were so good they would change my life. Of course, I jumped on that offer. Story research and a new improved life--talk about getting the most out of my four dollar investment! I took notes at my desk while I ate it. It was good, but I have to admit my life seemed pretty much the same routine of laundry, dishes, groceries, etc.

I was ready to take the next step -- making my own scones. At this point I also had some very brown bananas on my counter in desperate need of being turned into banana bread. As I looked up scone recipes, I discovered one for banana scones. Perfect.

Alas, the banana scones were … not perfect. The dough was a sticky, gooey mass. Cutting it into triangle wedges was a disaster. The oddly shaped lumps were edible when they were warm straight from the oven, but they were dry and heavy. Basically, I had baked a really bad banana bread. This was not how I envisioned my scone sorceress's amazing creation would taste, at all.

A few days later I went to a children's tea party, where the girls sipped hot peppermint tea and nibbled store-bought blueberry scones. These scones were sweet. They weren't as good as the pumpkin spice scone I'd started my adventure with but were certainly better than the banana disaster.

I worked up my nerve to try one more recipe. I found one for almond-poppy seed scones. This time the dough shaped nicely, just like the instructions promised, and came out of the oven looking beautiful. I was excited. I tried one, and they were good but not quite as sweet as I hope. I checked the recipe again. I'd forgotten the sugar! How could I have forgotten such a simple thing? So, I coated them in powdered sugar to make up for it, and they were pretty darn good. But still not perfect.

So, I made another batch -- remembering the sugar (duh!) AND adding powdered sugar and sliced almonds after they came out of the oven. This time the dough was a little stickier, but overall they proved to be a sweet, yummy snack. (I had them for snacks and breakfast.)

I've come to the realization that no matter how much I try to channel my inner heroine, I am no scones goddess. My life is pretty much the same, and I'm happy with it--thank you very much Mr. Over-Caffeinated Drive-Thru Man.

However, I am still on the search for the perfect scone recipe that will evaluate me to goddess status. (I don't need any men to fall instantly in love with me, but I'd love to have my children obey my every command.) Anyone have a scone recipe they can offer to help me out?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Final Stretch of a Virtual Grand Euro

Today and tomorrow are the last two stops on my six-week-long virtual Grand European Tour... Can't believe it! It's been such a joy journeying around the Internet, talking about these cities I love and (often!) the delicious food you can find there. Today, I have the pleasure of being at Nicole Basaraba's Uni-Verse-City blog and getting to chat about the beautiful city of Brussels, Belgium. This is especially exciting because, right now, Nicole LIVES in Brussels!!! So, it was great fun to get to ask her a few questions about a city I enjoyed visiting and one she's come to know extremely well.

Tomorrow, the final stop will be at Chick Lit Central for a visit to...well, from the photo to the right, I'm sure you guessed it! Yes, Paris -- land of wine and brie, my favorite Woody Allen film and some of the most recognizable sites in the Western world. Hope you'll join me as I finish out my travel adventures this week.

In other news, I got two reviews this weekend that were complete surprises but both very lovely and most welcome.

The first was for On Any Given Sundae, which was reviewed by Laci at Romancing the Book. She gave it a "Rose that Rules All: Magnificent" rating and wrote: "I absolutely positively ADORED this book. From beginning to end, it kept me grinning like an idiot, giggling, and biting my lip in anticipation at the characters. You gotta give credit to Marilyn Brant for coming up with a cast of characters that you might be able to find in your own hometown...I loved this book so much I immediately went to Amazon and bought 2 of the author’s other books. I have no doubts that they will be just as funny." Who wouldn't LOVE a review like that?!! I'm still smiling :).

The second was for A Summer in Europe, which was a short but official mention. Just the fact that it appeared in the "Romance Reviews: January" listing of the Chicago Tribune , in an article by John Charles, alongside new novels by Eloisa James, Jayne Ann Krentz, Connie Brockway, Robyn Carr, Teresa Medeiros and other authors in whose company I'm thrilled to be included...well, that was pretty exciting, too!!

So, even though there are other issues swirling around us in "real life" that are less than delightful, these were certainly weekend brighteners for me. What about you? How was your weekend? Any plans for the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. three-day weekend? Hope all is going well where you are.